There are so many reasons June is a great month, and local strawberries are one of those reasons. The delicate flavours of June produce are in stark contrast to the more aggressive Brassics we enjoyed in May. Warm weather will continue to expand the flavour and nutrient profiles of what our local farmers will be bringing to market. It was evident in the markets this past weekend that the COVID precautions are becoming second nature, as the respectful shoppers hunted and gathered.
Consider the pleasing esthetic of the humble strawberry, a beautiful bright red colour with a distinct bite-size shape like no other and a soft, sweet, juicy interior. It would be enough if it were to boast about being an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of fibre. Still, the antioxidant Pelargonidin, which is responsible for the red coloration, also has some neuroprotective properties. A recent study at Rush Institute of Healthy Aging in Chicago, concluded, using food frequency questionnaires over six years, that strawberries may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s dementia in older adults.
Asparagus is a wondrous bit of history dating back to 3000 BC and gaining popularity in Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries. We are sadly nearing the end of the growing season, which started in May. Harvesting the asparagus shoots is very laborious as it must be done carefully by hand. The delicate green stalks offer two distinct eating experiences. The tip requires very little cooking and is beyond tender with a flavour like broccoli. The stem has a pleasing creaminess when well cooked and a refreshing snap when lightly blanched. Asparagus has a generous 1.8g fibers/1/2cup and is known to be a diuretic, overall a clean sweep.
Small pickling cucumbers make great pickles, but they also make great cucumbers. These little minis have a thin skin, tiny seeds and a pleasing delicate melon flavour when eaten raw. Cucumbers are low in calories because of the high (96%) water content. Most of the nutrients are in the peel. Making pickling cucumbers into pickles using the Lacto fermented Kosher method does not use vinegar and can enhance your gut microbiome with probiotics.
The deep purple-red colour of the beetroot is a clue that this vegetable deserves some attention. Originally coveted for their edible greens, the beetroot was first known for its functionality as a fabric dye and a digestive aid. Beets can be eaten raw or cooked, but the slightly bitter skin is more easily removed after cooking. Beets contain natural nitrates, which elevate them to the functional foods category due to their potential to inhibit inflammation and reduce blood pressure.
How fortunate we are to live in a county that has local farmers producing such an abundance of delicious fruits and vegetables. Visiting a farmer’s market is a way to really connect with the individuals who dedicate themselves to the noble business of supplying us with the freshest, healthiest food available. It is worth the effort to supplement your food shopping with a trip to the farmers market.
About the author: Susan Smith is a volunteer at the MLFPC with long-standing expertise in nutrition. She graduated from UWO, Brescia University College in 1995 and has been a clinical dietitian at the London Health Science Center for almost 25 years! Susan has a keen interest in sustainable food systems that create a harmonious urban-rural relationship with a focus on community health and a minimal carbon footprint.